Sunday March 29, 2020

I Wanna Touch Your Face

It's not all that often that veteran Burlington band The Vapids surfaces in your news feed, but last week the long-running group was at the centre of two separate COVID-19 stories.

The Italian label I Buy Records recently released a low-fi tribute to the early-90s punk band, with each of the collection's 37 contributors recording a Vapids cover directly into to a cellphone. While the album, titled These Kids Are Sick, is available as a pay-what-you-want download, any money raised will be donated directly to Croce Rossa Italiana - the Red Cross chapter operating amid one of the world's worst outbreaks.

The set features an international slate of performers, with a handful of bands from the Vapids' national backyard among them. Look for covers from Toronto trio School Damage, London's Johnny Terrien And The Bad Lieutenants, Dirty Cheetah out of Montreal, Hamilton's The Merinuks, Wired Wrong from Sarnia, Moncton's The Follow Ups, and the Ottawa miscreants NECK among the performers. Both PlasticHeads and Flesh Rag make appearances, notable as Matt Ellis, a member of both garage-punk groups, also plays as part of the modern incarnation of The Vapids.

Listen: These Kids Are Sick @ Bandcamp

Simultaneously, Vapids frontman Jimmy Vapid emerged with his personal COVID-19 project, the Short Songs About a Virus album. Jimmy recorded the set entirely at home, writing, recording, and mixing 30 songs in total. Each of these tracks is, for the most part, under 30 seconds in length and built around lyrics sent in by friends from around the world. The set clocks in at 12 minutes in total. You can snag the album, either as one continuous track or broken out into individual songs, on Bandcamp. The title of each song credits the lyricist.

Proceeds from Short Songs About a Virus are also due for the Italian Red Cross. The Vapids last released Suburban Reptiles in 2016.

Listen: Jimmy Vapid and Friends - Short Songs about a Virus @ Bandcamp

Art of the Uncarved Block, the Toronto-based underground rock label run by Low Sun's Peter and Rob Johnson, has a new compilation online. Titled Songs From a (Social) Distance, the set showcases a number of the label's acts along with a few spiritually aligned counterparts from across Canada. The organization commented on the 15 song set:

"In spite of living in an increasingly compartmentalized world we've decided that there is no better time than now to rally the community together and share some music with everyone. This is just a small sample of the incredible talent we have in Toronto and abroad, so please continue to support artists any way you can as they release new material during these complex times.

Many of us have been hit incredibly hard financially right now, so with that in mind we've made this compilation free to download. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, we're looking forward to the day we'll all be able to enjoy music again together in the same space!"

Among the tracklist, you'll find one of the first publically released songs from Boiling Hell, the new solo project from Ryan Naray of the Toronto post-punk group Animal Faces. The set also features new and previously unreleased music from Pretty Matty, PAX, Tang, Mildew Mildew, Aluminum Garden, and more.

Listen: Art of the Uncarved Block - Songs From a (Social) Distance @ Bandcamp

Windsor's Matty Menard has a new four-song EP online from his low-fi solo punk act No Fix. Like so many projects debuting in these times, the appropriately titled Apocalyptic Rock serves as a reaction to our newfound isolation. Menard commented:

"I've been writing some tunes for a few months now and planned on recording in the spring to have something legit out by summer, but then I was told not to leave my house and recorded an EP myself. Turned out alright I'd say."

The set follows the fall 2019 single "See It Through," along with the Toxic Adult Demo EP from March of last year. Matty Menard plays bass in the psych-punk group Psychic Void, sings and plays lead guitar in the aggressive Brain Itch, and drums for the punk group Disco Assault whenever they get together.

Listen: No Fix - Apocalyptic Rock EP @ Bandcamp

While high-octane Ottawa trio Ciggie & The Darts have been playing local shows since early 2019, it's taken a year for any recorded material to show up online. You can now stream the first two tracks from the gruff rock outfit's upcoming debut at Bandcamp. That release carries the title Liquor, Leather, Denim & Darts, four words that sum up the Ciggie sound and overall ethos better than any genre could. The group wrapped these songs up right before the pandemic put the world on hold. They commented on their timing:

"Hot god Almighty, we were fortunate enough to wrap up our recording sessions just as this doomsday scenario began to unfold.

I have it on good authority that a bizarre cult have emerged in New Brunswick claiming these recordings are directly responsible for this plague sweeping across the globe. I won't speak to these rumours as they are largely unfounded. We have no tentative date for a release of our earth shattering debut but in an extreme act of generosity wanted to gift you shut ins with a little dose of Rock n Roll. Because one thing is for certain at a time like this we all need Rock n Roll."

Ciggie & The Darts features members of Chloroform, Slumlord, and Alcohol Fueled.

Listen: Ciggie & The Darts - "Struttin'" / "Cosmonaut" @ Bandcamp

Halifax singer/songwriter Jon Mckiel has a new video online showcasing "Object Permanence," the lead single from his upcoming LP Bobby Joe Hope. The surreal clip from director Andrea Thorne features a collage of psychedelic imagery. A likewise suitably oblique statement commented:

"Magic recombines ordinary objects to wake us; acknowledge mystery. Pluck from the landscape a rose or a bruise. World forms and unforms in universe around us - a moment comes and then dissolves. Tides and life; on the shore let us embrace beneath Moon and tremble a little as lovers and kin while we tumble through time in the wandering place."

Bobby Joe Hope follows up on Mckiel's 2017 LP Memorial Ten Count. It features found-audio salvaged from a second-hand reel-to-reel recorder and incorporated into each of the album's nine tracks. Mckiel worked in the studio with JOYFULTALK's Jay Crocker on the project. Bobby Joe Hope arrives on April 24 from You've Changed Records.

Watch: Jon Mckiel - "Object Permanence" @ YouTube

Jon Mckiel, along with poet Geordie Miller, performs from time to time as part of the Sackville-rooted Flour. That group recently shared a video for the song "Funny Feeling," which is due for an upcoming EP titled Tire Fire.

Like the "Object Permanence" clip, this piece also comes from director Andrea Thorne. The above mentioned Jay Crocker also has a hand in this one, credited with mixing the forthcoming EP. There's no word yet on a release date.

Watch: Flour - "Funny Feeling" @ YouTube

Edmonton punk act Real Sickies are using the COVID-19 quarantine to write and record a new benefit album, with each member working in insolation from their respective homes. The band's planning to spend no more than seven days on the set from conception to completion (they're on day 5, as of this mailing), with a release scheduled for Friday of this week. All proceeds from the new record are to be donated to the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Response Fund. You can follow Real Sickies' daily video updates of their progress now at Facebook.

This effort arrives on the heels of a new video for the song "Yeah You," a track from the group's recent Stomp debut, Out of Space. You can find the clip, directed by Todd Rocket, on YouTube now. Before everything went to hell, the band was in the middle of a tour with The Real McKenzies supporting the record.

Real Sickies are fronted by Ben Disaster, who's done tireless work supporting the Canadian punk scene through his This Is Pop radio show on CJSR.

Watch: Real Sickies - "Yeah You" @ YouTube

Hull's acclaimed punk-jazz combo FET.NAT rarely transacts in video, making this striking clip for a recent track all the more notable. Directed by musician and visual artist André M. Bluteau, the video pairs the audio from Le Mal's "Your World is my Mystery Gift II" with a disjointed series of footage and stills. The song's lyrics (with some additional poetry) fade in and out, methodically overlaying the visuals in a manner that at times feels remarkably provocative. I'm on record as a detractor of lyric videos in general, but this one is wonderfully nerve-wracking. It's deliberate to the point of being surgical. In a statement the band commented:

"Seeing this video made us realize that the song is not about now. It's about the future. The mystery. Whether good or bad, the current experience, and the potential outcome, resonates deeply with all of us"

"Mystery Gift" comes from the band's Polaris Music Prize shortlisted 2019 LP Le Mal.

Watch: FET.NAT - "Your World Is My Mystery Gift II" @ YouTube

Jordy Bell of Capital punk acts The Creeps and the Crusades has a new solo project together. In the wake of Crusades' demise, Bell's debuted his new act in a premiere at The Bad Copy. Say hello to Oswald Park.

Oswald Park has a 7-song EP on the way titled A Prescription Year. It's due May 1 digitally, with a CD release planned on the aforementioned Italian label I Buy Records. You can preview the poppy lead "Young, Drunk, and Stupid" now at Bandcamp. Bell recorded this material at Stella's House in Richmond, Ontario, with production assistance from Scott McCash (Crusades' Skottie Lobotomy) and Rob Seaton (Statues).

The Creeps last released Beneath The Pines in 2018. Crusades' bowed out in the fall of 2018, with 2017's This is a Sickness and Sickness will End serving as their final record.

Listen: Oswald Park - "Young, Drunk, and Stupid" @ Bandcamp

Toronto's eclectic and theatrical The Holy Gasp recently debuted a storytelling and recording project dubbed Mmm Urkh But. The piece was created by band lead Benjamin Hackman during a composer's residency at the historic Kiever Synagogue in Toronto's Kensington Market. In a press release, award-winning author Jacob Scheier commented on the piece:

"Mmm Urkh But tells a story both familiar and original in style and content—Beckett-esque and biblical, ironic, absurd, yet genuine and poignant. One might think there is nothing left to say on the subject of communication in romance, or perhaps the impossibility of it, yet Hackman tackles the topic in a fresh and, at times, surprisingly delightful way."

The core of the work is a 16-minute spoken-word piece, with music composed by Hackman and Toronto composer Robert W. Stevenson. The recording features percussion from Hackman, with Stevenson performing on the bass clarinet. Given the current limitations on live performances, Hackman and company have been performing Mmm Urkh But several times over streaming services. Keep an eye on their socials for future engagements.

The Holy Gasp, as a full band, last released The Love Songs of Oedipus Rex in 2018.

Listen: The Holy Gasp - Mmm Urkh But @ Bandcamp

Ottawa's The Tempunauts are an instrumental act performing a mix of surf-driven numbers with psych and punk undertones. The project recently launched a four-song EP on Bandcamp titled Electric Dreams. Guitarist and songwriter Jason Andersson commented:

"I am a huge Philip K. Dick fan, and if you are as well that should be obvious.

So, here's the story. I've sat on this thing for awhile. There were plans. Vinyl. Some 'buzz'. But alas, the world works in funny ways. If you've ever read a Philip K Dick short story or novel you'll know that "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. So, here we are. Not the way I envisioned it, but what ever is?"

The Tempunauts features Andersson backed by bassist Rui Resendes and drummer Dav Fot.

Listen: The Tempunauts - Electric Dreams @ Bandcamp

The low-fi Vancouver indie-pop group Lucky has a chill new EP out titled We'll Find The Time. The group recorded the four-song set with Dumb's Gal Av-Gay at the amorphous Vancouver artists' collective Choms.

Listen: Lucky - We'll Find The Time @ Bandcamp

You may recall Burning Nickels as a side-project of the Red Deer, Alberta skate-punk outfit Trashed Ambulance. The group recently resurfaced with a six-song EP titled Shout at the Nickel. It's the first set of originals from the project, following 2018's Freezer Burnt full-length. That album resurrected songs written for frontman Josh Hauta's pre-Ambulance group Fridge Or Freezer.

High End Denim Records is carrying the new release, described by Josh as "5 skate punk songs and a ridiculous hair metal song." Along with Hauta on guitar and vocals, and bassist Young D, the set features Trashed Ambulance guitarist Jason "Ozone" Ezeard drumming, with TA drummer Ryan Bell contributing gang vocals.

Listen: Burning Nickels - Shout at the Nickel @ Bandcamp

Calgary folk-punk singer/songwriter Seth Anderson has a new video online featuring the "Highway Lights," the lead single from his recent full-length We Could Be. Josh Wong directed the clip, filmed at the Royal Canadian Legion in Canmore. The director commented:

"For those who have been working the front lines and those who have gave up comfort for responsibility to our fellow man, I thank you, please accept this gift of art. My buddy Seth needed a video. Please watch this and remember, it took us both 20 years and many struggles as artists to be able to provide humanity with a little joy. 'Take me Now, I just wanna live.' These words are more relevant now than I think Seth was expecting. The video was shot at the Canmore Legion on February 29, 2020. When this is over we are gonna Love and Live like never before. I can't wait for the next rock show, I'll never take it for granted again. Long live humanity! And Seth's music!"

We Could Be arrived in February from Denver's Snappy Little Numbers. The album was recorded a few years ago in Eamon McGrath's Toronto living room, with the Edmonton-born musician serving as producer. Anderson's latest follows his 2016 album for Joey Cape's One Week Records.

Watch: Seth Anderson - "Highway Lights" @ YouTube

Piper Burns, the self-described "sad clown" of the Regina music scene, recently shared a demo titled "I Wanna Touch Your Face," spinning today's precautionary advice into a love song for better times. He jested that "no experts were consulted" in assembling the track, noting it "took as long to make as it does to listen."

The quarantine tune follows Burns' recent EP The Regulars. Credited to Piper & The Neon Burns band, the four-song alt-country set featured some familiar Saskatchewan players, including Andy Beisel and Ethan Anderson (Burns' bandmates from The Steves), and Chris Sleightholm (Snake River). That EP surfaced in January.

Listen: Piper Burns - "I Wanna Touch Your Face (Demo)" @ Bandcamp

No, It's Fine is a Halifax band playing, by their own description, "post-emo-pop-revival" (or whatever you call the genre that's emerged in Jeff Rosenstock's frenetic folk-punk wake). The group has a new demo online titled "Pisces•Gemini•Libra," their first new release since a self-titled EP in 2018. The group commented:

"Hi this is a demo version of the first song from our next album. Covid-19 threw all the deadlines out the window and I was bummed that it's definitely gonna take a bit longer to put some new music out so I just wanted y'all to be able to share in the process and also prove that something else IS coming."

Guitarist/vocalist Cailen Pygott and drummer/vocalist Chris Wilson performed on the recording, which was recorded by bassist Katie Wayne in her basement.

Listen: No, It's Fine. - "Pisces•Gemini•Libra (Demo)" @ Bandcamp

On March 20 the Windsor indie-rock group Trout recorded a nine-song set live off the floor of their jam space, The resulting recordings are now online as Live From Isolation,

This recording features Roye Trou on guitar and vocals, guitarist Brent Cusmanic, Colin Wysman on bass, Jeremy Coulter playing piano and organ, with James Brown on drums. The set follows a five-song EP the band released last December, titled Nectar.

Listen: Trout - Live From Isolation @ Bandcamp

The 10th-anniversary edition of the punk festival Pouzza won't grace the clubs of rue Sainte-Catherine for another year. With the timelines surrounding COVID-19 creeping closer to the Montreal event's Victoria Day kickoff, the organizers finally made the call. The event's been moved a full year out now, slated for the same weekend in 2021. Organizer Hugo Mudie commented in a press release and on video:

"It's no surprise but we have to postpone the 10th anniversary of the Pouzza Fest until May 21-23 2021. We tried our best to hold on as long as we could while we hoped for a miracle, but it's become clear that this is the right decision to make.

This was supposed to be our big 10th anniversary celebration and we've put a ton of work into the festival, so we're obviously heartbroken we won't be able to see you all this year. We've spoken to all the bands and most of them have already signed on for next year so you can rest assured we're going to come back bigger and better than ever.

Thanks as always for your unbelievable support. It means the world to us. For those who purchased passes, please standby, we'll be contacting you directly to give you the option of refunding or keeping your tickets for 2021."

Watch: Hugo Mudie's Pouzza announcement @ YouTube

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